More Pictures: Authors, a Store, and House…

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Inly’s new school library welcomed its first visitors from the children’s book world last week.  Peter Reynolds, the author of The Dot among many other books, and his twin brother, Paul, signed copies of their joint production – Going Places.  They generously allowed Inly to use one of Peter’s illustrations to celebrate our new building and the icing on the cake was their appearance at our ribbon cutting.

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My colleague, Mary, and I were standing nearby as they signed books and we marveled at how genuinely kind both Reynolds brothers were to to every person there. Mary and I originally planned to write each child’s name on a Post-it note for Peter (who was signing first), but we quickly abandoned that plan after listening to him asking children how to spell their names and using it as a way to spark a conversation.

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The magic continued on Friday during my “field trip for one” to Plainville to visit An Unlikely Story, the book store owned by Jeff Kinney, author of The Wimpy Kid series.  I’d heard glowing reports from kids and adults, but Plainville is not “down the street” and the months went by.  With the encouragement of a new teacher at Inly whose mother works at An Unlikely Story, I finally made the trip, and it was well worth it!

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As soon as I walked inside, I knew it was one of those special bookstores.  I go to book shops all over the world looking for the perfect combination: a cozy and well designed store, expert buyers, and a good cafe to sit and look at your new books. An Unlikely Story does all three – and I am now seeking new routes to Plainville!

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I had lovely conversations with two staff members: Sarah Nixon, who joyfully shared her enthusiasm for children’s books, and Leo Landry, the author of one of the best picture books to read to a toddler, Eat Your Peas, Ivy Louise!

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Leo has a new book being released next week – What’s Up Chuck – and I’ve already ordered a copy for Inly’s Library.

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Yesterday I visited another wonderful library, but not the kind that lends books. The library is inside  Beauport, the Gloucester summer home of Henry Sleeper, one of America’s first interior designers. The house is almost impossible to describe. Our tour guide, Mary, told us that Sleeper wanted each room is illicit a “wow” response – and he accomplished his goal. The rooms are themed, they move between light and dark, and the collections are spectacular.

Like the new Inly Library, Sleeper’s library is round, but the similarities end there. A fun note: the little red curtains on the left side of the picture below are made of wood. Mary told us that Sleeper found the curtains at an antique shop and designed the room around them!

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A fun book-themed few days – and now I have Jennifer Holm’s new novel, Full of Beans, to enjoy for the rest of the day…Happy Reading!

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Picture Books to Inspire Creativity

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Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

— Walt Disney

With so much being written about the importance of innovative and “out of the box” thinking, I thought a list of books to help nurture the creative spirit may be helpful to teachers and parents.  All of these picture books would be good springboards to discussions about persistence and the power of curiosity. They may also be helpful at the start of a collaborative project so that kids begin to recognize that there are lots of ways to contribute.

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The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (A book about a crayon rebellion that every child loves – entertaining and inspiring!)

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Frederick by Leo Lionni (May not be the first book that comes to mind when you think about creativity, but I think it fits. Frederick shows that words and stories are as valuable as collecting nuts and berries for the winter.)

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Not a Stick and Not a Box by Antoinette Portis (Two books by Portis.  Pair them with Crocket Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon to inspire young children to use their imaginations.)

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Weslandia by Paul Fleischman (The classic book about a young boy who creates his own civilization.)

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The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert (A beautiful picture book memoir about the creative process)

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Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran (Kids create an imaginary town in the desert – using boxes, cactus and rocks.)

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The Dot by Peter Reynolds (I could have used this book when I was young and decided I couldn’t draw and should not even try!)

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Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds (I love this new book by the Reynolds brothers. It emphasizes the value of teamwork – proving that the group works best when everyone’s perspective is valued. The kid who follows the directions and the dreamer are successful because both of their approaches are integral to the process.)

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The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (A new book about facing frustration – and moving through it – when things don’t go your way the first time.)

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Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty (Both awesome books about pursuing your passions and not letting setbacks discourage you. And when you read Rosie Revere, you are treated to a cameo appearance by Rosie the Riveter!)

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Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzburg (A colorful tribute to the liberating power of making mistakes)

The other day I was at Wellesley Books where I immediately went to check out the local selections for middle school summer reading. Many of the titles are the same books on Inly’s list, but always fun to see what everyone is reading by the pool:

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This is my favorite sign in the store – referring to the delays caused by the dispute between Hachette (one of America’s top five publishers) and Amazon over e-book pricing:

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Going Places with Paul Reynolds….

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We had a special visitor today – Paul Reynolds, the author of the new picture book, Going Places. Reynolds wrote the book with Peter Reynolds, author of The Dot and illustrator of the very popular Judy Moody and Stink books. Their shared last names are no coincidence. Peter and Paul are brothers; in fact, they are identical twins. As Paul described their relationship, they have “twinergy!”

Going Places is about a school with a contest called….Going Places. At Oak Hill School, every student gets a kit and a set of instructions to make a go-kart. Most kids do exactly what I would have done as a kid – and what I would do today – follow the instructions and make sure it’s “right.”  But in Reynolds-land, as you would expect from the the creator of The Dot and Ish, it’s the creative student who comes up with something different, who inspires the reader to see more possibilities.

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Through their children’s books and their work at Fablevision, an educational company that designs websites and animated videos to inspire creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking, Paul and Peter Reynolds are also making a statement about the risks of conformity. During his visit, Paul held up a blank book. Literally a plain white cover and lots of blank pages. He used it to emphasize that every day is a new page to fill and encouraged the kids to think about their own stories.

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Personally, one of the things I appreciate about Going Places is that Rafael, the character who follows the instructions, is not presented as “wrong.” His contribution is valuable too. When he works with Maya, the “dreamer” who watches a bird for her inspiration, Rafael is inspired by her approach, but they are successful because of their collaboration.  Going Places is a good book to read to kids, but I would also recommend it to teachers who are discouraged by all of the testing and ranking and standards. It’s a sweet and inspiring reminder that every kid has something to offer.